Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Art Review - "La paye des moissonneurs" - Petit Palais, Paris, France

A few months back I shared "Les Halles", a massive painting by Léon Lhermitte at the Petit Palais in Paris, France.

For today's #MuseumTourTuesday, I'd like to share another piece by the same artist viewed during our visit last year to the Musée d'Orsay.

At almost 9 feet in width, this is an impactful work to behold, and a tour de force of drawing skill.

"La paye des moissonneurs"(Paying the Harvesters) • Léon Lhermitte • 1882 • Oil on Canvas • 215 x 272 cm
Although beautifully painted, there is no joy in the piece. The main figure delivers a haunting stare into the distance as the others engage in commerce.

Unlike many other paintings from the same period of workers toiling in picturesque fields, this piece focuses on the transactional aspect of their labors and not their connection with the environment.

I find the compositional layout fascinating with its simple flow through the figures.

We are first drawn to the main figure on the left, seated, facing us. His sickle points us directly to the mother and child, who in turn faces the man behind her counting out coins. The over the shoulder sickle of the man to his right leads us through the next three figures, and then the figure in blue's body moves the eye downward to where his boots intersect with the bails of wheat, which point back to the main figure, restarting the movement.


 "La paye des moissonneurs" Detail • Léon Lhermitte • 1882 • Oil on Canvas • 215 x 272 cm
The main figure's face is painted with a stark sense of reality in his expression. The approach to painting is incredibly confident, with a mix of thick and thin areas of paint.
 "La paye des moissonneurs" Detail • Léon Lhermitte • 1882 • Oil on Canvas • 215 x 272 cm
Lhermitte clearly understands how to convey various textures in all their complexity, from the rough fabric of the shirt to the smooth worn wood of the sickle handle. Everything is painted very matter-of-factly, with no sense of embellishment. This is not an idealized version of the world.
 "La paye des moissonneurs" Detail • Léon Lhermitte • 1882 • Oil on Canvas • 215 x 272 cm
Notice the thick and thin paint within the wheat. The darker areas reveal the texture of the canvas with their washed in color, while the tops of the stalks convey dimensionality with slighter thicker strokes of paint.

Painting photos by Saunders Fine Arts

© Patrick and Kimberly Saunders, Patrick Saunders Fine Arts, 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s authors/owners is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Patrick Saunders for painted works, or to Kimberly Saunders for photographs and/or videos, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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